This post is an examination of the difference between content aggregation and content curation, and why they make a difference to a firm’s information flow - indeed, to explore why curation is crucial to both legal and information professionals. I illustrate the benefits of aggregation, curation, the deployment of push/pull content, and how it could differentiate you from the competition.
What is content aggregation?
A content aggregator is a site that gathers content from different sources online and puts it in one easy-to-find place. For instance, content aggregator sites gather news stories or blogs from several sources and distribute it to their viewers. These sites can collect news articles, social media posts, images, and videos. (Hubspot, 2021)
Content aggregation is a process that brings together different types of digital content into one single searchable platform. Content can come in many formats - RSS, webpages, emails, PDFs etc. - so it requires standardisation. Efficient database searching requires the consistent organisation of information.
A small number of platforms are designed to handle incoming content in many formats. From a technological point of view, RSS feeds are the most convenient way to add content. There are handy Chrome extensions to help you locate them on a website, but unfortunately RSS feeds are becoming less popular.
Thankfully Vable has found alternate ways of importing information.
There are a number of free or freemium content aggregators on the market, each one designed for a different need. For some people a dashboard view of aggregated key publications is enough, indeed they are a great way to discover new blogs and keep up with social media trends. Some platforms enhance the content, such as utilising a natural language processing tool.
Vable is a premium aggregator. We expand on what is available from the publisher; we check for available metadata, categories, summaries, and full text (where available) and populate relevant fields. We also analyse incoming English language content with natural language understanding and add keywords which describe it.
Everything the information professional needs for accurate searching.
What is content curation?
content curation consists of finding material relevant to your audience from a variety of sources, and sharing it strategically through your communication channels. (Hubspot, 2021)
Content curation is for end-users who rely on handpicked and focussed content. It can be described as the action of finding, choosing and presenting relevant content on a specific subject matter. As the definition from Hubspot demonstrated, the end result (i.e. the relevant material) can then be used by a variety of professionals, e.g marketing, social media, knowledge managers etc. to inform their readers.
Regardless of who you are or which industry you are serving, successful curated current awareness relies on process and insight into your end-users’ needs.
Topic experts/information professionals scan through the results of searches and identify articles which are significant and/or relevant. These are sorted into different topics or subject groups before being presented in a digestible and easily understandable format - this could mean being sent as an email, via shared dashboard, or RSS feed on an intranet/webpage.
So much more than curation...
Library and information departments rely on premium news aggregation services like Vable because they provide the raw material needed for curated topics and newsletters. The skill of the information professional is what makes the content so good; anyone can aggregate which is why 85% of libraries use current awareness products (BIALL Law Firm Library Survey: 2019/20, p50).
Indeed, the latest AALL survey states,
Firm/corporate legal information professionals provide value and expertise far beyond traditional notions of the law library. More than 30 percent of firm/corporate law libraries are formally responsible for curated newsletters (35.8%), competitive intelligence (35.2%), and conflicts/new business intake (NBI) (31.5%). Additionally, more than 30 percent regularly contribute to the following: marketing (55.8%), business development (52.7%), management (50.0%), litigation (44.2%), professional development (38.9%), and information technology (32.7%).
Why is curation so important for legal - and information - professionals?
Way back in 2017, Steven Lastres highlighted the importance of curated newsletters. As he noted, “curated newsletters should be created not only for specific practice areas, but also for market teams, management, and industry groups. As more informational professionals are embedded into various legal and marketing teams, they become keenly aware of what content those groups need”.
It is the norm now for library and information professionals to bring together and highlight critical articles from publications across the world. It has led to a deeper collaboration between information departments and their end-users; from marketing departments to management teams. Curated newsletters should now contain opportunities for business development and generating revenue.
Curation is important because of the focus it offers. However, having shared dashboards and complete lists of Topics on offer can be thought-provoking and inspire some random connections. Some of the best insights into tricky problems can be revealed in unexpected articles - perhaps some of these wildcards could be added to a curated feed called ‘the butterfly effect’ or ‘miscellaneous thoughts’ to encourage ideas!
For instance, this piece on “paying attention means we see the world less clearly” reminded me about the benefits of broad-based reading. A change of any kind, reading or otherwise, can provide a spark of inspiration, as Adi Gaskell wrote, “gaining a fresh perspective on things is often at the heart of innovation as it allows us to apply our existing knowledge in new circumstances”.
Curation means differentiation
I started out by asking what the difference was between content aggregation and content curation, but perhaps we need to turn that around and ask instead, what difference does it make to the organisation? Content curation has long been a vital aspect of how an organisation maintains and develops its knowledge ecosystem and sets itself apart from the competition in the process.
When Lex Mundi selected Vable to deliver a current awareness and news monitoring service they wanted a curated set of topics made up of their member firms’ content. Utilising Vable's enhanced news aggregation, curation and the MyVable delivery platform, Lex Mundi is able to aggregate legal updates from all of those member firms into one single, searchable database.
Twelve topics are covered including Coronavirus (COVID-19), Restructuring, Diversity and Social Justice and Cross-Border Transactions. Vable's natural language understanding technology automatically sorts articles into relevant legal sectors to aid searching. Available resources include legal current awareness and legal commentaries and analysis in respect of each of the jurisdictions represented.
Lex Mundi is keen for every member firm in every jurisdiction to differentiate themselves. Vable provides the cutting edge technology and an innovative solution which provides the current awareness and competitor insights that our client needs to build a trusted network of friends through sharing knowledge.
A postscript about vetted content
This is a postscript to the blogpost, and I’m open to discussions about this.
The term “vetted content” came up in a recent Wolters Kluwer webinar. In my opinion, vetted content is another way of describing a library collection (online, hardcopy etc). Collection development can be defined as “the systematic assessment, selection, and deselection of library resources”. We spend our entire career reviewing, developing and maintaining collections.
When we are putting together a list of resources on an intranet page, creating a bibliography for a training session, curating a “one stop” guide to the best resources on a particular subject, supplying a list of email newsletters to which end-users can subscribe or even cleansing the library management system and removing out of date material from the collection - this is all about vetting content.
Vetted content is about handpicking all types of information for our end-users - not just articles in a newsletter. Therefore, if we were to identify where vetted content sits in the graphic above, I feel it would encompass both aggregated and curated content.
What do you think? What does content aggregation and content curation mean to you? How does it impact end-users in your firm?